Lock­down drives data traf­fic

The Mercury - - FRONT PAGE - |

SOUTH Africa was con­sid­er­ing giv­ing tele­coms com­pa­nies in­creased spec­trum, or air­wave ca­pac­ity, as mil­lions of peo­ple switch to home work­ing, test­ing net­works and driv­ing up data traf­fic, the com­mu­ni­ca­tions min­is­ter said yes­ter­day.

The tele­coms in­dus­try, which is reg­u­lated by the In­de­pen­dent Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Au­thor­ity of South Africa (Icasa), has ex­pe­ri­enced a spike in net­work data traf­fic in re­cent days af­ter thou­sands of schools and uni­ver­si­ties were forced to shut down.

Telkom told Reuters that it was see­ing in­creases of 15% to 30% in data con­sump­tion across mo­bile and fixed con­nec­tiv­ity, while MTN Group said it was too early to quan­tify the surge in data traf­fic.

MTN, Telkom and Vo­da­com are al­ready pro­vid­ing free ac­cess to health sites and e-school plat­forms to sup­port home learn­ing and teach­ing, while MTN has waived fees on mo­bile money trans­ac­tions in cer­tain mar­kets.

While South African tele­coms oper­a­tors say their net­works have been able to cope so far, there are fears of con­ges­tion as more peo­ple work from home.

“One en­vis­ages a sit­u­a­tion where there will be too much traf­fic on the net­work,” Min­is­ter of Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Stella Nd­abeni-Abra­hams told jour­nal­ists, ad­ding that Icasa was con­sid­er­ing pro­vid­ing tem­po­rary ad­di­tional spec­trum.

The min­is­ter said that tele­coms com­pa­nies would be re­quired to re­turn the spec­trum once the sit­u­a­tion nor­malised.

“Icasa is cur­rently en­gag­ing with sec­tor li­censees on pos­si­ble ways of pro­vid­ing ra­dio fre­quency spec­trum re­lief for the du­ra­tion of the de­clared State of Dis­as­ter,” Icasa spokesper­son Paseka Maleka con­firmed in an email.

“This is mainly to ease con­ges­tion, en­sure good qual­ity of broad­band ser­vices and to en­able li­censees to lower cost of ac­cess to con­sumers (par­tic­u­larly in re­la­tion to ed­u­ca­tion, emer­gency and other so­cial ser­vices).”

Vo­da­com told Reuters that it would be en­gag­ing Icasa to “gain ac­cess to spec­trum on a tem­po­rary ba­sis”.

“Vo­da­com has also taken a de­ci­sion to sig­nif­i­cantly ramp up in­vest­ment spend in the short term to help man­age net­work con­ges­tion,” group spokesper­son By­ron Kennedy said.

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